A Doll's House as A Play of Social Criticism

A Doll's House is a play of social criticism in the sense that it has criticized the traditional marriage, man-woman relationship and the domination of the female by the male in the name of love or family. It has thrown a number of questions in the face of the so-called values that were traditionally supposed to make the family happy and the society civilized.

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)

Ibsen has taken up the problem of marriage as an issue for this problem play; and he has exposed a number of problems inside the mask of the outwardly perfect relationship between a husband and wife. Until a woman tries to be free for deciding her preferences and following her own conscience, until she dares to be frank about her feelings, until a wife questions her loving husband why he gives her no respect, until she finds out that his love is only a form of possessing and exploiting her, and until she is disillusioned about how the 'shelter' of her husband can deprive her of all opportunities of realizing her dreams for being someone in the society, until that moment, Nora, like many women of her time, lives in the cozy (comfortable) illusion of love from her husband. But this husband turns out to be a hypocrite and an egotist, a man who doesn't apologize even when he is made to realize how much injustice he has done to her. When a crisis comes, he is able to discard his wife as a nobody; he is able to scold her in an unimaginable manner and forget all her lifelong love and sacrifice. She is his doll, his petty possession, his material means of luxury, not even a friend or partner for life. He gives her no dignity. The woman finds out that he has been in love with his own image, and for the fun of playing with her. She brought up the children, but he thinks that they are his property. She had saved him from death, and he has no culture of saying 'thank you'; instead, he feels that it is shameful to be saved by a mere wife!

This exposure of a man's behavior and attitude towards his life-mate, his treatment and exploitation of whom a civilized world calls a 'soul-mate' is not only the exposure of a particular man's emptiness of heart and mind and culture. It is the exposure of the emptiness and poverty in the hearts of the society's collective behavior which we call it 'culture', in the neutral sense of the term. The events of the drama are extremely realistic. In fact, they had happened in reality itself. The drama was written by looking at the life and experience of a woman named Laura Kieler, who almost exactly resembles Nora.

One of the reasons why A Doll's House was often banned was because it was bluntly criticizing the actual society of the time, and not because it was immoral or vulgar. No doubt, it criticized the lack of justice and humanity in the treatment of women like Laura Kieler during the late 19th century. The drama is also very relevant to the situation of women in many, many parts of the world even today in the twenty-first century.

A Doll's House Study Center

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